Five top tips for CAM practitioner success


In this post, Mark Shields (AKA The CAM Coach) pinpoints the qualities that make a great CAM practitioner.
CAM practitioners or students that I have met over my years of working in the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) industry have come into this arena for various reasons. The majority of the responses when asked “why?” are that they wanted to follow a career where they could help people to feel healthier.
Ultimately, the main qualities that CAM Practitioners start out with are empathy and inquisitiveness. It is from here they start the journey of discovery.
How many actually make a career out of CAM?
When Simon Martin and I began to our research for our business book for CAM Practitioners, ‘The CAM Coach’ to find the current level of success within the CAM industry, the results of our investigations proved frightening. 65% of CAM graduates finished university and didn’t make it into business. Of those that did over half failed in their first year. This equated to an additional 20% more failures in CAM Businesses in the first year compared to any other business start-up area. Scary isn’t it?
When we interviewed several successful “CAM leaders” such as Mike Ash, Ben Brown, Antony Haynes, and Kate Neil it became obvious why some make it and some don’t.
Competence and confidence = congruence
We discovered that your typical CAM practitioner was highly academic, but lacked business skills, knowledge and often confidence. Lack of confidence can make or break a business. There’s a slogan that says: “Success is 90% confidence and 10% competence”. This seems to be the case with many CAM Practitioners as their confidence grows with each client they see, however, to start with, they do not have enough clients to gain that confidence and this becomes a vicious circle of damaging “self-talk”, leading to further negativity.
Some practitioners appear to be what I call “serial studiers”. Studying can be addictive, especially when you get a dopamine hit every time you discover a new piece of knowledge or information. It can also raise your confidence temporarily.
In my view, to become completely congruent as a practitioner, it is important that you have the right balance of academia, business knowledge, skill and confidence to carry your business forward.
The CAM Coach book therefore needed to be focused on not only motivating and inspiring practitioners, but also give them the tools, skills, business knowledge and confidence to not only set up a successful practice, but also to go on sustaining that success year after year.
The big 5 top tips for practitioner success
1. Model Success
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Find a CAM Practitioner that is successful and that you can identify with. Be completely objective not subjective. Only work a proven successful business model; find out what works and model it. When modelling you would ensure you model the physical process and structure, as well as the mental application of the person you are modelling. Some of the world’s most successful people in business will admit to modelling on someone else to help them get where they wanted to go. Find an expert in your field that has written on the subject of how to be successful and learn from their experiences and theories.
2. Develop your coaching skills
Understand and accept that if you want to be successful and get great results with your clients you have to develop some great coaching skills. These include interpersonal skills like building rapport, having the ability to motivate and inspire your clients into taking action. A great emotive coaching model as an alternative to GROW (Goals, Review, Options, and Way Forward) is OPUS.
These days GROW is seen as an educational coaching model that some say lacks the passion, urgency and drive we need to get clients to take action. OPUS on the other hand focuses the client on Opportunity, Passion, Urgency and Significance. I believe the two models work perfectly together. It is important as a CAM practitioner that you develop and enhance your coaching skills as this will impact on all areas of your business. NLP is a great coaching model to learn and will help your build relationships with clients, competitors, business partners and peers. To find coaching training and mentoring with dedicated programs for practitioners visit or
3. Have a vision
Goals, actions and a robust business plan are part of every practitioner’s repertoire. However, you need to get more emotive if you want real success as a CAM Practitioner. You need to have a real vision. One that you can see, feel, taste, smell and hear, every time you visualise the future of your business.
Take time out to visualise your future and step into that vision regularly so you bring it alive over a period of time. This will reinforce your confidence and beliefs. Think about your vision and include the impact your success will have on everybody around you from your partner and family to your clients and competitors.
4. Ensure you have a strategy
Behind every successful person or business is a strategy. You need to bring your vision alive by taking the appropriate action to get you where you need to go. Get it down on paper. The strategy embraces the map of your journey to success. Your strategy should include a series of goals, commitments, processes, actions, and reviews to ensure your business reaches its goals successfully.
It is common to include in any strategic planning your business philosophy, mission, actions, KPIs, (key performance indicators) and results. There’s more on this in the CAM Coach.
5. Take action
The main reason we don’t take action is because of FEAR. It is quite natural to be afraid of the unknown, which is why we like to stay within our comfort zones. But just imagine the excitement of putting yourself out there and seeing what you could potentially attract!
Every time we take action the dynamics of the outcome are thrown into the unknown. The character of the entrepreneur, the small business owner, is that they are happy to take a risk. They would rather take action and fail than take no action at all. As practitioners in private practice it is important to take action and rather than thinking of an outcome as success or failure, reframe it as a learning experience.
There is no such thing as failure, only new understandings and learning. Remember, we are a product of what we think. Our thoughts are directly linked to our levels of confidence and subsequent action and behaviour.
To be a successful CAM practitioner, the emotion to work on is confidence, perception of success, and eradicating limiting beliefs. If you want to change the future tomorrow you’ve got to take action today. All you are looking for is progress no matter how small or insignificant. Enough progress leads to momentum and momentum leads to confident action.
Mark runs NLP, hypnotherapy and coaching courses in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. For more information visit For more info on the CAM Coach books, seminars and courses visit or call 01462 431112. You can get 20% off The CAM Coach here.
This article was originally published in Holistic Therapist Magazine.